Doctor Who

The Milan dress WAS ruined. She felt rather sad about that as she showered and changed into a less glamorous t-shirt and skirt from the TARDIS’s collection of clothes. When she returned to the console room she saw that The Doctor had also changed – into identical copies of the clothes he always wore – right down to the scuffed shoulders and frayed cuffs of the leather jacket and the third button on its last thread. Rose smiled when she saw him. He was HIMSELF. And that was a miracle in itself after the day they had had.

And it wasn’t even teatime.

“Where shall we go next?” The Doctor asked.

“Are you asking me?” Rose answered curiously.

“Yes. Why not. You never get to choose.”

“Is there anywhere in the universe we can go that you can promise me we won’t get attacked by anything more violent than wasps after our sandwiches? I really would like just one day of peace. We haven’t had that for so long.”

“About the safest place I know is right here in the TARDIS in temporal orbit,” The Doctor admitted. “I think I could guarantee we wouldn’t be bothered here.”

“Then let’s stay here,” Rose said. “Let’s spend the rest of this day in temporal orbit in peace with nobody shooting at us or trying to hang us out to dry.”

“That’s not such a bad idea. Come on.” The Doctor held out his hand to her and she took it readily. He led her through corridors that she only half knew her way around and finally opened a double door.

“Oh, wow!” she said. “What is this?”

“This is my imagination and the TARDIS’s love and generosity to us. It has created a place for us to spend a quiet evening without anyone bothering us. It won’t last, I’m afraid. To create something this big takes up way too much power, but it's here now.”

“Where IS here?” Rose looked around at the beautiful place she found herself in. If it was an illusion, it was an amazing one. The grass under her feet felt real, cool and soft underfoot, and the breeze that blew her hair was refreshing. She looked at the mountain that towered over the scene, a high, conical one that might once have been a volcano, and the huge waterfall that fell half its height into a swirling pool that spilled over into a gurgling river.

There was a forest that began halfway up the mountain and ran down towards the river bank. Up the mountain they were tall pines, but closer to there were different kinds, including some that looked like fruit trees. Rose looked up at the sky and saw that it was a reddish-yellow colour, the only thing that told her it was not on Earth. The sun, low in the sky a little to the right of the mountain was bigger than the Earth sun and slightly redder. It was a beautiful place. She puzzled over it being created by his imagination.

“It's an illusion – like in the Hall of Lost Souls?”

“Yes. Same principle. Except I only do scenery. No people. It's just me and you here, my cockney sweetheart. As to WHERE we are – this… this is as near as I can get to taking you to Gallifrey. A fragment of memory of it.”

“This is Gallifrey?” Rose looked around in renewed wonder. No wonder it was such a good illusion.

“It's an illusion of Gallifrey,” he corrected her. “Gallifrey is dead.” He didn’t seem to want to suspend his own disbelief and believe in his own illusion, but he looked around him with a smile. “That’s Mount Lœng,” he said looking towards the mountain. “Our family name comes from it, of course. This is our land. We owned most everything you can see from here, including the mountain.” He sat down by the riverbank and Rose joined him. He plucked a flower from a clump growing nearby and gave it to her. It was pale yellow with long radial petals and smelt very pleasant.

“Memento Mori lilies,” he said. “The floral symbol of our world.”

“Memento Mori?” Rose plucked the information from somewhere. “That means something that is a reminder of death.”

“It's a reminder that death comes to all,” he told her. “Something we needed reminding of from time to time, I suppose.”

“Kind of ironic now, though.” Rose said out loud then wished she hadn’t. It was a cruel thing to say. But he was philosophical about it. He looked up at the warm sun and took off his jacket, a rare enough thing in itself, to put under his head as a pillow as he stretched himself out on the grass. Rose lay at a right angle to him with her head on his chest. He put his arm around her shoulders, and for a long time they lay together like that. The perfect peace of the illusory Gallifrey really WAS pleasant.

The Doctor looked up at the illusion of the sky of his home planet and allowed himself a smile. He could forget for a while that it was gone. How long had it been since he last lay there and looked at the sky of his home world? Not since the carefree days when Julia was alive.

“Oh, Julia, my love,” he whispered in a low voice. As he realised what he had said, he felt Rose move. She sat up and looked at him, then reached and touched his face gently. He took her hand in his and squeezed gently.

“This is one of your special places, isn’t it,” she said. “A place where you and her….”

“Yes,” he said. “That’s why it's so vivid and easy to recreate. Because I know it so well. But don’t think in any way that I’m comparing the two of you, or that I’m living out a fantasy that you are her….”

“I think it's nice,” Rose told him. “That you share these things with me. I feel so close to you when you share these little secrets of your past with me. It's… an honour, too. I know you’ve never shared it with anyone else. I’m glad you think so much of me.”

“Rose….” He turned on his side, at the same time pulling her down beside him and holding her close. He didn’t say anything else for a long time. He just held her pressed close to him.

It felt different from other times when he had held her. Without the thick leather of his jacket as a barrier between them, she felt closer to him physically. Her thin t-shirt and his shirt were all that was between them. It was nice. He held her by one arm around her back and the other holding her head, ruffling her hair as he pressed her face against his shoulder and kissed her forehead lovingly. She wished he would kiss her properly, but she knew he wouldn’t. Here, in this illusion of a place where he and his wife had been intimate was the last place he would forget himself with her.

His masters at the Prydonian Academy had always accused him of having neither patience nor self-restraint, and blaming the human part of his DNA for it, as usual. But right now, self-restraint and patience were the only things stopping him from what would be a beautiful and wonderful moment, but ultimately a mistake. Just be happy with it as it is, he told himself. She’s here, in your arms, and she loves you. You’re alive to enjoy it. And that’s enough of a miracle for one day. Don’t ask for anything more.

Neither of them would have thought it possible that they could be happy doing nothing except holding each other that way. Neither would have thought it possible they could lie together that way for several hours – neither noticed how many – not sleeping, not talking, not doing anything. But it was what they both needed - a few hours peace and quiet to let their universe stop spinning for a while. The fact that it WAS still spinning outside the peace of this temporary illusion was comforting, but here, for a while, they knew a perfect moment of peace for the first time in too long.

The sun was much lower in the sky when they did, at last, move. Rose sat up first and looked around.

“You said it would disappear when we leave?” she said.


“Pity. I don’t want to leave yet. But I’m hungry.”

“No problem.” The Doctor sprang to his feet. “Back in a few minutes.” He ran towards the tree-line. She felt a little cold, too. She picked up his jacket and put it on. It swamped her, of course, but she loved the feel of it. The smell of old leather was nice. So was the faint smell of HIM. She folded the jacket around herself and closed her eyes. She felt as if he was still hugging her. Wearing his jacket made her feel that safe, that secure and warm and comforted.

“Here you go.” She jumped a little. She had been so much in the daydream that she didn’t hear him come back. She opened her eyes and looked in surprise as he dropped an armful of fruit, some familiar, some unfamiliar, in front of her. “Our picnic tea.”

He sat down beside her, legs crossed and picked up a strange looking fruit. “Try this. It's a sort of nut, very nice taste, and lots of protein.” She took it and peeled off the rough skin to reveal something the shape of a peanut but the size of a small orange. She bit into it and it tasted more like a walnut, but it was softer and easier to swallow.

“Nice,” she said and picked up a more familiar apple to follow it up with.

“We used to grow them in big plantations and process them. They could be synthesised into any food you wanted. Meat, fish, you name it. But I always liked them in their natural state.” He peeled and bit into one of the strange nuts himself. “I’d almost forgotten the taste. But it only exists in my memory now.”

His eyes looked moist for a moment, but he blinked a few times and held it in. He looked up at the mountain. “Up there… There used to be a monastery. A little sect of Time Lords who believed in meditation and contemplation. I liked them. I used to go up there a lot. They taught me stuff the Prydonian Academy wouldn’t even think of teaching.”

“Like what?” Rose asked.

“Like beauty. About what is beautiful in the universe. A flower opening… some of them have the contemplation down so fine they can sit and watch a flower go from bud to full blown over days on end. I never really managed more than an hour or so. Too impatient, they told me. I’d more likely build a temporal force field to make it happen in a few minutes. And I would. I DID quite often. But THEY had it right. Nature is too beautiful to mess with. Even by a Time Lord.”

“But you do mess with it,” Rose said. “I mean the things you do… the time folding and the telepathy… and creating things like this… they’re against nature, surely.”

“No, they’re not,” he said. “They are all perfectly natural functions of my race. Even regeneration is just DNA. Most of my ‘special powers’ come from being so much older than most races… two hundred years of undergraduate education, and another century getting my postgraduate qualifications, made me a smart so-and-so. Being able to concentrate my mind… well that’s ALL telepathy is. Just really good concentration. So is the time-folding. Some humans have the beginnings of telepathy. But their lives are so short they don’t get chance to exploit it. We… Time Lords… have the opportunity to explore our full potential. That’s all.”

“No magic?”


“That feels better somehow. You’re REAL… less untouchable and strange.”

“Was I ever those things?”

“Yes. Or you seemed to be. When I first met you, I was frightened of you. Well you DID blow up my job. And that cybernut Clive… telling me that your one constant companion was death, that wherever you have been, there is a list of the dead. And after all… you DID turn out to be an alien…”

“And yet you came with me.”

“Because….” She paused. What was the reason? Because he was the most exciting thing ever to happen to her? Because she was bored with her life and he offered excitement. Both sounded like she had used him.

“No. No, you didn’t use me. At least no more than I used you. I wanted company. I AM a loner, I wander the universe alone, but at the same time I crave company.”

“You’re a soppy article,” Rose said, as she always did when he got too intense in his inward looking.

“Yeah, I am.” He smiled and reached out to touch her face. “Whatever your reason was, I’m glad you came.”

“So am I. And it's not true, what Clive said. You don’t CAUSE the death and destruction. It's there already. When you get there you make it better.”

“Saviour of the universe” He looked up into the sky and sighed. “It's hard work though. Sometimes I feel so weary of it. That’s why I need moments like this sometimes. I AM glad you’re here, for that reason. This IS an illusion.” He waved at the scene around them. “But the one truly real and beautiful thing in my life is YOU. I don’t mean because you are physically lovely to look at, although you are. But because of your beautiful soul, that trusts me and never loses faith with me, and is there for me, even when I have been a total git like I was this morning. And I don’t have words to say what that means to me. Except the usual old line. I love you, Rose. I don’t even say that often enough, and you take that on faith without me saying it, and that is so unfair to you. But remember, always, no matter what… I do love you.”

“Was it really only this morning that we were rowing with each other?” Rose asked. The rest of his words were almost too deep for her to take in. She knew he loved her, but having it put so explicitly was hard to take in, even so.

“It's been a long day, hasn’t it,” he admitted. His ribs gave a twinge to remind him of the other part of it. “After me being such a git, you were the one who was there, holding me, keeping me from the brink.”

“I still don’t quite understand what happened there – apart from you being shot four times.”

“I can’t really explain it to you,” he said. “It's just one of those things WE do. I’ve been shot before. Must be five or six times now. It's absolutely horrible, hurts worse than just about anything else, and it's one thing that CAN kill me outright or cause a regeneration. Would have been quicker and easier and less painful to do that today. But I fought it. I didn’t want to go. I want to spend a lifetime with you, not eternity in that bloody pyramid arguing with my other selves.”

“You sound like you don’t like them.”

“I don’t. And that’s daft, I know, because they are me. There’s a bit of all eight of them in me, and I think I’m a pretty ok sort of guy. But when they’re all there… I don’t know, maybe its being dead that makes them so bloody sanctimonious. When it IS my turn I’m not going to be like that. I’m going to make them wish I’d never died. They’ll hate being stuck there with me.”

Rose laughed despite herself. “I bet you will. But not yet, though.” She hugged him close as if by holding him she COULD keep him from being another ghost in that lonely white pyramid. And maybe she could if her love was a reason for him to fight against death and want to live.

“Let’s take a walk,” he said after a while. “We’ve been so lazy all this time, lounging about here.” She agreed. He took her hand. She wondered if he had realised she was still wearing his jacket. The sun was a lot lower now anyway and it was cooler. She was glad of its warmth. He didn’t seem bothered by the temperature. He never did. She figured that was a Time Lord thing.

How real was the illusion? He wondered about it and hoped. How real could the TARDIS make it for him? It was already giving him so much. Funny to think a machine could love him so much. But she – it was a she – really DID. If he ever doubted it before, this little miracle proved it.

They walked towards the mountain. He had walked that way many times before. They didn’t talk. They didn’t need to. He had said enough before. Was it too much? It had been a far more explicit declaration of his feelings for her than he had ever made before. But she needed to know. She needed to know there WAS a reason why he kept her with him, why he wanted her with him. Not just to hold screwdrivers and strip wires and be a decoy while he cleverly despatched some ugly monstrosity that wanted to eat them both. She understood and accepted why their love had physical limitations. But why shouldn’t she know how much his hearts yearned for her?

He stood by the boiling and roiling pool and looked up at the great waterfall that fell half the length of the mountain. It might be better if they didn’t go there. But now they had come so far, he KNEW he could not turn back and let this beautiful illusion disappear until they did. He led her by the hand around the pool to where a narrow path climbed part way up the mountain.

It was very narrow, and there were breaks and crumbled parts they had to leap across. He had never before compared Rose to Julia in any way, but as they climbed he did notice one difference. Julia used to LET him help her over the difficult bits even though she didn’t really need it. Rose didn’t even think about it, but jumped and climbed over obstacles without a thought. The difference was that Julia had been trained to be a wife, to defer to him, to be dependent on him and to show that she needed him to be her strength and guide, whereas Rose deferred to nobody and nothing and if she WAS dependent on him, he was equally dependent on her.

Rose didn’t ask where they were going, or why. She let him lead the way up the side of the mountain. They were about the height that her mum’s flat was above the ground when they came to a piece of the path that went behind the waterfall. It was like a green curtain that came down with a terrific noise and the spray made the path look slippery, but The Doctor took her hand and led her along the narrow way.

Behind the waterfall there was a cave, and this was where he wanted to bring her. The sound of the waterfall was less loud inside. It was a gentle, soothing, background sound. Rose could only dimly see at first, but then there was the sound of a match being struck and a candle lit and gradually she was able to see walls that glittered with some kind of quartz-like element in the rock. She saw a ‘bed’ of sorts made up of fur rugs and blankets in the far end of the cave and near the entrance a rug spread out and a picnic meal laid upon it, along with a bottle of wine and glasses for two.

“Now THAT’S inventive,” Rose said.

“That’s naughty,” The Doctor said with a smile. “The TARDIS is reading the last time I remember being here. Only I wasn’t. It wasn’t real. It was when I was in that stupid hall of Lost Souls. It created an illusion of being here with Julia. Which makes this an illusion of an illusion. But… Oh well, never mind.”

He sat on the rug and opened the wine. He poured two glasses. Rose sat next to him as they drank the wine and ate the food - cheese and bread and more of the exotic fruits of Gallifrey. While they ate they could see, distorted by the waterfall, the sun going down on Gallifrey, the light changing fantastically every minute until it was gone altogether and night fell.

Rose thought about the precarious path down and realised they would have to stay the night here now.

“We don’t HAVE to,” The Doctor told her. This ISN’T real, remember. I can take us back to reality any time. Or we can stay here a little longer.”

“You want to, don’t you,” Rose said. She could see it in his face. He was happy here, even though he knew it was just an illusion, and that his planet, this beautiful place, was dead and gone.

“Yes,” he said, sitting up and hugging her around the waist and pulling her close to him. “Yes, I want to stay a little while longer. I know it has to end. Otherwise all we have here is our own personal version of the same evasion of reality’s responsibilities that the Hall of Lost Souls offers. But just this one night….”

“Fine by me.” Rose leaned back into his embrace. “It's nice being with you, with nothing to worry about.”

“It's wonderful. And it doesn’t happen often enough. Just one thing I hope you can understand. Well, two things maybe. First - from the Bumper Book of Facts about Time Lords - we are great believers in the sanctity of marriage and we NEVER sleep around outside of marriage. Julia was the first and only woman I have ever made love to, and that as her husband. Fate has recently given me memories of two illusions of love-making. Once - in that damn hall of illusions - I felt in a very real sense I was with Julia again, lying here with her as my wife. And then, not so long ago, I found I had memories of being married to you, and of making love to you. But even in those illusions, the love-making was as a married man. But this time – the scenery is an illusion, but we are real. Rose, I just want you to understand that – later – when we lie down there among those rugs together, all that I can offer is a loving hug as you sleep. I just want you to know that, and understand why.”

“Okay,” Rose said. What else could she say? He had set the terms for their relationship long ago and she went along with it, because even his limited and restrained love was better than anything she had ever known before. “Besides, it's not as if this is the first place we’ve ever been alone together at night. I sleep in the TARDIS all the time while you’re kicking around somewhere pretending to be busy. And the people at SangC’lune never seemed to have worked out that I’m not really your ‘consort’.”

“Yes, I know,” The Doctor said. “But… Well this is a place where….”

“Where you and Julia were together….”

“Yes.” And he smiled. “You’re about to call me a soppy article, aren’t you.”

“Something like that.”

“Yes, this was our most special place after we were married and we wanted to get away from Gallifreyan politics for a bit and be ourselves.”

“I wish we had a special place,” Rose said.

“We have lots of special places,” The Doctor said. “We have Paris… and SangC’lune and… and the spot by the bins behind your mum’s flat.” Rose laughed at that and reflected that Milan was not going to join those destinations for either of them. “We get to go where we want, when we want. When I was married to Julia I had a dull desk job with the ministry of external affairs and was chairman of one of the less exciting sub-committees of the High Council. We needed to get away from it all from time to time.”

“I can’t imagine you being THAT ordinary,” Rose said. “Did you like that sort of thing?”

“Yes, actually,” he said. “It wasn’t as exciting as being a diplomat and travelling. That’s what I did when we were first married. But really it was better for Julia and Christopher that we stayed in the one place. And I WAS… still am really… LOYAL to Gallifrey. For all the things I may have said about it, it was my home-world. I loved it. I loved our system of government and I was ambitious to be a part of it.”

He sighed deeply as he thought about it. Less cherished memories came back to him.

“It really did take a lot of boneheaded stupidity on their part to make ME into a Renegade. Of course, the sort that didn’t think a half-blood had any place in their society just figured I was bound to go to the bad. But I think I shocked a lot of people all the same. Until then I did have the respect of most of the hierarchy and plenty of friends I could rely on. And if anyone had called me that - I’d probably have called them out. Renegade is about the worst thing you can call a Time Lord.”

“What did make you….”

“Losing my son was the start of it. Christopher – murdered - because of political jealousy among our people. That cut deep. After that, I stopped caring. I stopped being proud of our system and saw it as bureaucratic and dull and full of fools who wouldn’t know a new idea if it slapped them in the face. So I gave them a big new idea – one of their elite turned Renegade! I think that’s half of why they were so angry when they caught up with me. Because I was such a high profile Renegade.”

“Yes, you told me about it before. They executed you.” That sentence sounded bizarre, of course. With anyone else in the universe it would not make sense.

“My atoms were disassembled in just about the most painful way they could devise before they ALLOWED me to regenerate. But that’s not a story to go to bed on. I don’t want to give you nightmares.”

“The only nightmare I’ve ever had since I came on board the TARDIS is that one about you not being you any more,” she said. “Nothing else scares me when you’re around.”

“That’s starting to scare me a bit,” he admitted. “Especially after today. It seems rather a prophetic sort of dream. But we’ve seen enough of alternate realities to know that nothing is straightforward. In some other timeline I’m already giving my former selves hell in SangC’lune. But I’m here with you, now, Rose. So don’t have anything but nice dreams tonight.”

With that he led her to the back of the cave where the makeshift bed was and laid her down under the covers before kicking off his shoes and snuggling beside her. No, nothing would ever happen that was against his principles. But after the day they’d had, they deserved this night. He kissed her gently and wished her sweet dreams and she was asleep in a very short time. He lay there savouring her nearness and blessing the TARDIS for being such an old romantic that it made this possible. And before he, too, let a rare period of ordinary sleep take over him he reminded himself to get his jacket back from her tomorrow.

He woke just after dawn and felt so very relaxed. It wouldn’t last, of course. In an hour or so they would have to make this sweet illusion go. Prolonging it for too long would start to affect the TARDIS’s performance. He couldn’t risk it. But they needed these hours together. He needed to wake, warm and comfortable, with Rose snuggled close in his arms, a soft smile on her lips. He wished there was a way to make it real. But there were so many obstacles. Some were of his own making, of course. His desire to be married to her in the way of his own culture – a culture that no longer existed – was pretty much insurmountable. Even if that could be sorted, there was still the problem of their physical incompatibility that Susan never let him forget.

And then there was the problem of a universe out there that would never let him be a full time husband to her. He would always have other people to think about.

It was simpler, somehow, when he married Julia. All he had to do then was get around the snobbery of the purebloods who objected to yet another generation of his family mixing with Humans.

Rose stirred and opened her eyes. She looked into his and sighed, not unhappily. “I thought it was a dream. But you’re really here… with me.”

“I’m always with you.”

“You know what I mean.” She squeezed close and kissed him on the lips. He caught the moment and slowed time, stretching it to a long, sweet, lover’s kiss. “That’s cheating, you know,” she said when he let the time flow back.

“I know. But come on. We ought to get along. It's a beautiful walk along by the river in the early morning. Let’s have a last look at my dream before we have to let it go.”

Yes, she thought, it was beautiful in the morning, with the early sun glinting off the river. They breakfasted on those strangely filling nuts as they walked along. But at last they had to go back. The Doctor looked around one last time and sighed, then he took her in his arms and held her and he whispered loudly. “All right, we can end it now.”

When they both looked again they were standing in the corridor by the coke machine.

Almost at once, though, they both became aware of an insistent sound of an alarm beeping in the console room. The Doctor sprinted off with long-legged strides.

Rose sighed. Trouble already!